Contributed from Victoria
More than 70 workers at Visy’s Dandenong plant at 119-124 Greens Road, voted on Monday (7 August) to stay out and maintain the picket outside the factory in Dandenong (Victoria).
They had walked off the job on 31 July, in reaction to ongoing provocations, which came to a head, when management had informed its workforce, without consultation, that changes to drug and alcohol policy were going to be imposed, to bring about cultural change in the workplace.
It is the cultural change bit that has raised the objection. Visy refuses to explain what it means and there is fear that this will be used as a vehicle for discrimination.
Last year there was a major strike across all the company’s plants, over the use of hired labour to replace permanent jobs that resulted in the arrest of a number of workers at Dandenong in December. The atmosphere remains toxic.
The present dispute took a turn for the worse, after the workers were angered by the sacking of their union delegate, for what is regarded under the existing restrictive industrial law is regarded as “illegal industrial action”. The Australia Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) has been giving them support.
One worker, who wanted to remain anonymous because he feared repercussions, said: “If delegates can be sacked through kangaroo courts and alleged misdemeanors, then it’s open slather.”
Visy has a history of opposing unions and in the view of those working there, has chosen to go on an offensive now. The company is owned by Anthony Pratt, a member of one of the richest families in Australia.
The Dandenong plant, is one of the company’s most profitable and has been working to full capacity lately, and management has tried to make overtime compulsory, although it is supposed to be voluntary. Over 90 percent have declined to do it and there has been an ongoing standoff over the issue.
Back on 26 July, Visy won interim orders from the Fair Work Commission that directed the workers to cease all forms of industrial action, including overtime bans. The Federal Court has given injuctions to the union, its officials and the four delegates from the job and ordered the strike to end.
The dispute is continuing.